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With Loan Volumes Soaring, Are Mortgage Stocks a Good Buy?

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® and Lou Whiteman - Jul 16, 2021 at 6:32AM

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There are some promising companies in the mortgage space, but will the strong numbers last?

Several high-profile mortgage companies have gone public recently, and the timing certainly makes sense. With record-low interest rates, refinancing and purchase-lending volume has been off-the-charts, and these companies' growth numbers look fantastic. However, is now the right time to add mortgage stocks to your portfolio? In this Motley Fool Live video clip, recorded on June 28, contributors Matt Frankel, CFP, and Lou Whiteman discuss how they're approaching the mortgage space right now. 

Matt Frankel: Ra, says, I don't know if it's Ra or R-A. Let's say RA. "Hi, can I get your thoughts on UWM Holdings Corp (UWMC 0.49%), UWMC? It's a recent SPAC in the wholesale mortgage market and pays a dividend. Do you like at the current price and what growth do you see next?" I am hesitant to get into any of these mortgage lenders that have recently gone public even though I think UWM is a great company. I'll tell you why. You've seen a wave of mortgage lenders go public. Rocket (RKT -3.30%) went public last year. UWM, they're have been two or three more. Better is about to go public through a SPAC merger. There's a reason for that. Mortgage volume has been through the roof, so the numbers look fantastic. Better reported that its loan volume is up 490% year-over-year. That's not just because they're doing such a great job of growing the company, that's because literally, everybody is refinancing in the past year. They're a lender that specializes in refinancing. I know people who have refinanced twice in the past year. I take the recent numbers with a big grain of salt and I'm in wait-and-see mode with all of these mortgage lenders. That's just me. I don't about you, Lou.

Lou Whiteman: It's not going to get any better than this, right?

Frankel: Right.

Whiteman: You're paying that premium right now. It's a very neat company. It's also the market has recognized it. Whether or not valuation is terrible, it's certainly not you're getting value. I'm partial to the wholesale because compared to what Rocket's doing or some of the aggregators, how do you think of the difference between those, and do you have a preference with one model or another?

Frankel: I like the direct-to-consumer a little bit more, to be honest with you. I'm a big fan of Better. If I was going to buy one today, I've said that I would get into Better just because it's what I use my refinance. I had a great customer experience. They really live up to the claims they make. With all the SPACs going public, a lot of the numbers sound made-up when they make claims. "We're going to cut the closing time in half. You can lock your rate within 15 minutes of visiting the site." With Better, it's true. They actually live up to their claims. In my lifetime, I have obtained probably about 10 mortgages when you include investment properties. I do like the wholesale model, but I think there's a lot of opportunity in the direct-to-consumer space when it comes to efficiency and things like that.

Whiteman: Yeah, I think you're right. I like the basis for the wholesale model. Some of these guys they're just can go straight out there, and especially in good times, I think. It really works out well to just have that flood coming in. It's got to be a crazy time for these guys as far as this picket is open.

Frankel: Like I said, I'm in wait-and-see mode. There's no such thing as a normal housing market. Let's get that out of the way. But in a somewhat normal mortgage market, refinances could stay elevated for a while. Even for people who've refinanced, if your home's worth 20% more, that gives you a reason to refinance that they cash out. That could stay elevated for the foreseeable future as long as the real estate market stay aside. I know you're in Atlanta and your home value is probably up by 20% or more over the past year.

Whiteman: It's funny, I am a Quicken junkie. I can tell you what I spent on January 1st, 1994 based on. One of the things that Quicken now has a partnership with, I think it's Zillow (ZG -1.99%) (Z -1.59%), where they automatically update your house property. It's silly stuff. Every time I update stock prices, the value of my house goes up $7,000.

Frankel: You can't sell it, it's a paper gain. You'd have to buy another inflated house.

Whiteman: It feels good.

Frankel: In real money, it does give people that equity to tap into, which could really fuel the refinance market for the next couple of years. When everybody's refinancing, every mortgage company looks like a genius.

Whiteman: Yeah.

Frankel: I want to see how they look when refinancing when things cool off a bit, which could take a while. I'm going wait-and-see mode, but I don't think you'll go wrong with UWM or Better, or Rocket or any. I think they're good companies. But I'm just in wait-and-see mode for the whole industry.

Lou Whiteman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Matthew Frankel, CFP has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Zillow Group (A shares) and Zillow Group (C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

UWM Holdings Corporation Stock Quote
UWM Holdings Corporation
$4.06 (0.49%) $0.02
Zillow Group, Inc. Stock Quote
Zillow Group, Inc.
$37.37 (-1.99%) $0.76
Zillow Group, Inc. Stock Quote
Zillow Group, Inc.
$37.06 (-1.59%) $0.60
Rocket Companies, Inc. Stock Quote
Rocket Companies, Inc.
$9.95 (-3.30%) $0.34

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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